I’ve been working on collections of quotes lately, and I have one more that I’d like to present… this one on the thoughts of rulers.
For a number of years I’ve been telling people that the incentives faced by productive people and the incentives facing rulers (of whatever stripe) are very, very different. This list, I believe, will make that point.
You’ll find quotes from ‘bad’ rulers on this list, of course, but also some from the ‘good’ rulers. And please note that the ‘bad’ ones are very often held in high regard in their times. Joseph Stalin, for example – the #2 most prolific killer in all of human history – was the ‘great ally’ of the US in World War II and was routinely presented to the American public as “Uncle Joe.”
So, beginning with Uncle Joe, here are the things that rulers believe:
Education is a weapon whose effects depend on who holds it in his hands and at whom it is aimed.
Ideas are more powerful than guns. We would not let our enemies have guns, why should we let them have ideas?
Gratitude is a sickness suffered by dogs.
The cult of xenophobia is the cheapest and surest method of obtaining from the masses the ignorant and savage patriotism, which puts the blame for every political folly or social misfortune upon the foreigner.
Terrorism is the best political weapon, for nothing drives people harder than a fear of sudden death.
I have not come into this world to make men better, but to make use of their weaknesses.
What good fortune for those in power that people do not think.
I have sympathy for Mr. Roosevelt, because he marches straight toward his objectives over Congress, lobbies and bureaucracy.
[I]n the simplicity of their minds, [people] more readily fall victims to the big lie than the small lie… It would never come into their heads to fabricate colossal untruths, and they would not believe that others could have such impudence to distort the truth so infamously. Even though the facts which prove this to be so may be brought clearly to their minds, they will still doubt and waver and continue to think that there may be some other explanation.
Why, of course, the people don’t want war. Why would some poor slob on a farm want to risk his life in a war when the best that he can get out of it is to come back to his farm in one piece… But… the people can always be brought to the bidding of the leaders. That is easy. All you have to do is tell them they are being attacked and denounce the pacifists for lack of patriotism and exposing the country to danger. It works the same way in any country.
What a man! I have lost my heart! (referring to Benito Mussolini, 1927)
One may dislike Hitler’s system and yet admire his patriotic achievement. If our country were defeated, I hope we should find a champion as indomitable to restore our courage and lead us back to our place among the nations.
There seems to be no question that [Mussolini] is really interested in what we are doing and I am much interested and deeply impressed by what he has accomplished and by his evidenced honest purpose of restoring Italy.
The real truth of the matter is, as you and I know, that a financial element in the larger centers has owned the Government ever since the days of Andrew Jackson. (to Colonel Edward House)
Our power does not know liberty or justice. It is established on the destruction of the individual will.
The best way to control the opposition is to lead it ourselves.
The real criminals hide under the cloak of the accusers.
Of all our institutions public education is the most important… we must be able to cast a whole generation in the same mold.
A man becomes a creature of his uniform.
The life of a citizen is the property of his country.
Charles Maurice Talleyrand
We were given speech to hide our thoughts.
An important art of politicians is to find new names for institutions which under old names have become odious to the public.
The illegal we do immediately; the unconstitutional takes a little longer.
Give me six lines written by the most honorable of men, and I’ll find an excuse in them to hang him.
Think of the press as a great keyboard on which the government can play.
The lie can be maintained only for such time as the State can shield the people from the political, economic and/or military consequences of the lie. It thus becomes vitally important for the State to use all of its powers to repress dissent, for the truth is the mortal enemy of the lie, and thus by extension, the truth is the greatest enemy of the State.
Justice is incidental to law and order.
William H. Woodin (US Treasury secretary)
The Federal Reserve Act lets us print all we’ll need. And it won’t frighten the people. It won’t look like stage money. It’ll be money that looks like real money. (1933)
The Truth Apparent, apparent to everyone’s eyes who are not blinded by dogmatism, is that men are perhaps weary of Liberty. They have a surfeit of it… we have buried the putrid corpse of liberty … the Italian people are a race of sheep.
Roman Emperor Caracalla
As long as we have this [pointing to his sword], we shall not run short of money.
Prince Phillip, duke of Edinburgh
I must confess that I am tempted to ask for reincarnation as a particularly deadly virus.
Charles de Gaulle
In order to become the master, the politician poses as the servant.